Crown Classics

Grey Walls Press (London, UK)
Series dates: 1947-1954
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

crowncl_logoEnglish poet and author Charles Wrey Gardiner was an editor of the Poetry Quarterly for the Channing Press prior to WW2. Around 1940, Gardiner moved to a house owned by his mother in Billericay called “Grey Walls.” There he initiated the Grey Walls Press and began publishing. In 1947 Grey Walls Press combined with Peter Baker’s newly formed Falcon Press and moved to London. A co-series of prose titles, formatted very similarly, was issued as the Falcon Prose Classics from  1948-1953. The combined firm was in financial trouble by 1950 and issued titles in both series until 1954. In 1954 Peter Baker was convicted of fraud related to his attempts to shore up the publishing firm. Grey Walls and Falcon Presses ceased operations soon afterward.

The Crown Classics were named after the publisher’s address (Crown Passage, Pall Mall) and debuted in 1947. All were out-of-copyright works. Thirty six titles were published by 1954. The slim volumes of poetry, each introduced by a poet, were designed along the lines of Chatto & Windus’ Zodiac Books – brief texts with serious attention paid to distinguishing designs on the bindings and jackets to, it seems, encourage the serial purchase of books in the series as they were released. In the case of the Crown Classics, eight designs were repeated on the binding and jackets of different titles (with color variations) and a few titles had unique titles inspired by the poet’s work they covered (eg., William Morris’ poems used a pattern from Morris-designed wallpaper).

Robert Bloomfield: A Selection of Poems (edited and with an introduction by Roland Grant) is 1947 (first year of the series) issue in the Crown Classics series. For the most part, subsequent titles follow the same overall format, with variations in the design used on the front of the jacket and book cover. This particular design used here is an agrarian theme. A blurb about the poet is included on the jacket flap for each title.

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The front jacket cover is repeated on the back cover. A list of titles available or in preparation is included on the back flap. These catalogs are confusing: each is numbered and associated with a particular title. But the lists don’t seem to be in any logical order associated with the publication date of the books. What seem to be early lists with fewer titles are numbered higher and on books published later, for example. This may be due to the inclusion of only the date of first printing in the books (it isn’t clear if the book is a first or later printing, if there were later printings).

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The binding boards are printed with the jacket design.

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A basic half-title page.

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The title page.

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Date when first published is included on the copyright page. It is not clear if reprints indicated a date of reprinting. None of the 13 copies I have indicate anything but “First Published in…”.

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Selected Poems of Robert Herrick (edited by Jack Lindsay, 1947) has the agrarian design jacket/book. Selected Poems of Thomas Hood (edited by Clifford Dyment, 1948) has a nautical theme jacket/book design.

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Selected Poems of Christopher Smart (edited by Ruthven Todd, 1947) has a constellation design. Selected Poems of William Morris (edited by Jack Lindsay, 1948) has a unique design, after one of Morris’ wallpaper designs.

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Selected Poems of Coventry Patmore (edited by Derek Patmore, 1948) has an urn with swans, angels, etc. design. Selected Poems of Ben Jonson (edited by Ronald Duncan, 1949) uses a design with grape draped columns.

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Selected Poems of George Crabbe (edited by Geoffrey Grigson, 1950) and Selected Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (also edited by Grigson, 1951) use the same design as the Ben Jonson title, but with different color backgrounds.

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Selected Poems of William Cowper (edited by Norman Nicholson, 1951 has the same design of the previous four titles, but in grey. Later in the series fewer designs with color variation seem to have been used.

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What should be a complete list of Crown Classics is below in order of month issued. Titles in the series did not have official series numbers (I added the numbers):

1. EDWARD LEAR, The nonsense songs, Nov 1947.
2. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD, Selected poems, Nov 1947.
3. CHRISTOPHER SMART, Selected poems, Nov 1947.
4. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, Selected poems, Nov 1947.
5. JONATHAN SWIFT, Selected poems, May 1948.
6. EDGAR ALLAN POE, Selected poems, June 1948.
7. ALGERNON SWINBURNE, Selected poems, Sept 1948.
8. COVENTRY PATMORE, Selected poems, Oct 1948.
9. ELIZAZBETH BARRETT BROWNING, Selected poems, Mar 1949.
10. ANDREW MARVELL, Selected poems, Mar 1949.
11. PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, Selected poems, Mar 1949.
12. CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE, Selected poems, Mar 1949.
13. WILLIAM BLAKE, Selected poems, Mar 1949.
14. THOMAS HOOD, Selected poems, Apr 1949.
15. WILLIAM MORRIS, Selected poems, May 1949.
16. LORD ALFRED TENNYSON, Selected poems, May 1949.
17. JOHN SKELTON, Selected poems, May 1949.
18. BEN JONSON, Selected poems, July 1949.
19. ROBERT HERRICK, Selected poems, Sept 1949.
20. LORD BYRON, Selected poems, Dec 1949.
21. WALT WHITMAN, Selected poems, Mar 1950.
22. ROLAND GANT (ed), A book of ballads, Apr 1950.
23. ROBERT BURNS, Selected poems, May 1950.
24. JOHN KEATS, Selected poems, Aug 1950.
25. GEORGE CRABBE, Selected poems, Sept 1950.
26. JOHN DRYDEN, Selected poems, Sept 1950.
27. JOHN GAY, Selected poems, Sept 1950.
28. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, Selected poems, Oct 1950.
29. LEWIS CARROLL, The humorous verse, Nov 1950.
30. MATTHEW ARNOLD, Selected poems, Jan 1951.
31. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, Selected poems, May 1951.
32. WILLIAM COWPER, Selected poems, July 1951.
33. EMILE BRONTE, Selected poems, Nov 1952.
34. THOMAS GRAY, Selected poems, Jan 1954.
35. JOHN MILTON, Selected poems, Jan 1954.
36. CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, Selected poems, Jan 1954. [was supposed to be a Crown Classic but issued in a different size and with a Falcon Press imprint]
37. EDMUND SPENSER, Selected poems, Jan 1954.